Wild plums with green leaves

Plum Good

Article by Geraldine Kilgore

school desks

The daily paper is filled with advertisements of back to school clothes and school supplies. It is that time of year again announcing the end of summer and the start of school. Naturally my mind wanders back to those days of childhood when a new pencil box could bring excitement. My birthday is towards the end of summer and one year my grandmother’s gift to me was a pencil box. I checked it every day or two and marveled at such a fine gift.

I looked forward to those first few days of school. The smell of the schoolhouse after being closed through the long summer in the Nebraska heat is something I will always remember. It was not an unpleasant smell. Old books, dust and waxed floors, heated through a long hot summer, in rooms unopened until early fall.

I grew up on a farm about 15 miles southeast of Lynch, Neb. Going to school meant a two mile walk by road, or something slightly less if we cut across pastures. My sister, brother and I did not mind the walk. In fact, we rather enjoyed it.

Long way ‘round

rural fence

There were two fences to maneuver on our journey. One had a wooden gate to open. It was wide enough for farm machinery to be driven through but easy enough to open and close. We had to make sure each and every time that the gate was securely closed so that cattle could not get out.

The other fence was barbed wire over hog fence. We very carefully, you can be sure, crawled through that one. Though now I cannot imagine how it was accomplished without tearing our clothes.

It is a wonder that we made it to school on time, the way we meandered along. Every strange plant had to be investigated. Flowers had to be marveled at and sniffed. Birds had to be studied, those flying overhead and those nesting on the ground. Rabbits darted across our path; startled pheasants startled us. Nothing was overlooked as we walked along. Yes, it is a mystery how we made it to school on time, but I do not ever remember being late.

But it was walking home after school in those September days that bring back some of my most pleasant memories. That is because of the wild plums that grew along the way. Either way, by road or through the pastures, there were wild plums, ripe and nearly bursting with sweetness.

Sweetest ending

There was one particularly large thicket of them growing by the roadside and that is where we spent much of our time, picking and eating, with juice running down our chins and dripping onto our clothes. They were not big plums, but the juiciest, sweetest plums I have ever tasted. We would pick a handful and set down in the tall grass to eat them. The monotonous hum of insects in the late afternoon quietness would nearly lull us to sleep.

There were chores to be done later but for the time being we were content to lay there in the grass, popping plums in our mouths, watching billowing white clouds lazily drift along in the blue, blue sky. There were times we took turns telling what objects the clouds looked like. We had very vivid imaginations and saw everything from teddy bears to floating ships. Our minds were on the plums and in the clouds, rather than gathering eggs and carrying wood to the house so the old Majestic range could cook our supper.

And if by chance, as we sat there in our little utopia, Mom and Dad came driving by, they would find books and lunch boxes stacked by the roadside and three happy, sticky kids eating wild plums and spitting seeds. School, for the time being, was the last thing on our minds.

We picked also for Mom to make plum jelly that we enjoyed on pancakes and hot biscuits through the cold winter months.

Missing those long ago days

rural farm house

It was such an innocent, peaceful time. If only we could have realized what a treasure it was. But as children we took each day as it came. How could we know days like that do not go on forever?

My children, all city kids, will never have sweet memories like these. And that makes me sad. You would never see a child now days lying in the grass with his arms behind his head, gazing at the heavens. They have never experienced the fun and entertainment we enjoyed; it never cost a dime. We did not expect entertainment to be made available to us. We made our own.

It was just my sister, brother and me, but we never lacked fun things to do, and I can never remember being bored. I wish my grandchildren could experience the peaceful quietness of the country.

Geraldine Kilgore grew up on a farm 15 miles southeast of Lynch, Neb. She now lives in Newburgh, Indiana, but she remembers well those days when she and her siblings meandered to and from school along dusty dirt roads, crawling through fences, traipsing through pastures, and stopping at the plum patch on the way home. The school she attended was large for a country schoolhouse, with a coat room, main school room lined with lines of desks and blackboard, a reading room, art room, and a misbehavin’ room. The school even had a full-size basement. She was the lone eighth grader when she graduated.

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Nebraska Rural Living

Nebraska Rural Living’s mission is to market the very real benefits of a rural lifestyle. We highlight the amenities of rural communities and spotlight successful entrepreneurs, who make good livings, free of the stress of urban environments.

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